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Biography of Lyman U. Humphrey

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Lyman U. Humphrey, the eleventh governor of Kansas, was a resident of this state forty-four years. The City of Independence, which was his home all these years except the time he spent in the state capital, will always honor his name, and his upright life and splendid record of public service serve to brighten the annals of the entire state.

He was born at New Baltimore, Stark County, Ohio, July 25, 1844, and died at his home in Independence September 12, 1915. Few men can accomplish so much in a lifetime of seventy-one years. He had a worthy ancestry. His father Lyman Humphrey was born in Connecticut of English descent in 1799. The Humphrey ancestors located in New England during the early part of the seventeenth century. Lyman Humphrey as a young man moved out to the Western Reserve of Ohio, locating at Deerfield. That village had among its shops and other institutions a tannery, formerly owned by Jesse Grant, the father of Gen. U. S. Grant. This tannery was bought by Lyman Humphrey, but after engaging in the business for some years he took up the law as a profession. He filled a place of usefulness and influence in his community, served as a colonel of the militia, and died at the age of fifty-four. At Niles, Ohio, he married Elizabeth A. Everhart, daughter of John and Rachel (Johns) Everhart, a native of Pennsylvania. Mr. Everhart was connected with the iron industry at Niles. It is said that Mrs. Lyman Humphrey was the inspiration and encouragement to both her sons, and spurred them on to unusual accomplishment even as young men. She was in fact a woman of strong personality and character, of great native intelligence, and the devotion which she gave to her family in her years was well rewarded when she saw her son, after many other public honors were bestowed upon him, occupy the chair of governor in Kansas. She spent her last years at the home of Governor Humphrey in Independence, where she died in 1896 at the age of eighty-four. She was left a widow in 1853, and for a number of years had heavy responsibilities in connection with the rearing and training of her children. She gave two sons as soldiers to the Union. One of these sons, John E. Humphrey, was in the Nineteenth Ohio Infantry, was severely wounded at Shiloh, and on that account discharged from the army, but subsequently re-enlisted in the First Light Artillery of Ohio and served until the end. He was also a pioneer settler of Montgomery County, Kansas, where he died in 1880.

Nine years of age when his father died, Lyman U. Humphrey spent his early years at the old home in Ohio, attended the public schools of New Baltimore, and had begun his course in the high school at Massillon when his education was interrupted for the sake of serving his country.

October 7, 1861, at the age of seventeen, he enlisted in Company I of the Seventy-sixth Ohio Infantry. It had been well said that probably no man in Kansas had a more brilliant army record, and yet in his later career he never boasted of what he did on the field of battle, never exploited his record for the sake of advancement in politics, and it is probable that many of his stanch admirers were never aware that he had served with so much credit during the War of the Rebellion. With the Seventy-sixth Ohio, in the First Brigade, First Division, Fifteenth Army Corps, he participated in twenty-seven battles, sieges and minor engagements, including Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth, Chickasaw Bluff, Arkansas Post, Jackson, Champion Hills, Black River Bridge, the siege of Vicksburg, the forced march from Memphis to Chattanooga, Lookout Mountain, Missionary Ridge, Ringgold, Resaca, New Hope Church, Kenesaw Mountain, the battle before Atlanta on July 22, 1864, Ezra Chapel, Jonesboro, Lovejoy Station, the march to the sea, Savannah, the campaign through the Carolinas, and up to and including the battle of Bentonville and the surrender of Johnston’s army. At Ringgold November 27, 1863, he received his first and only wound, but lost no time from duty on that account. All this service of nearly four years, it should be noted, was rendered before he reached his majority. He was mustered out at Louisville, Kentucky, July 19, 1865, just six days before his twenty-first birthday. During the war he sent his monthly wages home to support his widowed mother, and though a youth without special influence, his faithful service gained him promotion to first sergeant of his company, and then on special recommendation from his colonel was promoted to second and first lieutenant, and was in active command of a company during the Atlanta campaign and march to the sea. A biographer had called attention to the report of an inspecting officer on the back of an old muster roll of the company he commanded. The notation follows: “Discipline, good; inspection, good; military appearance, good; arms and accoutrements, good; clothing, very bad.” Undoubtedly the qualities of determined courage and devotion to duty which he exemplified in the stern times of war stood him in good stead as governor of Kansas when he was frequently called upon to face and fight more insidious enemies and influences than confronted him in warfare of arms.

On leaving the army his first efforts were devoted to securing a better education. He attended Mount Union College in his native county for one term, and also spent a year in the law department of the University of Michigan. Lack of funds compelled him to curtail his schooling, but in 1868 he was admitted to practice in the courts of Ohio. From that state he went to Shelby County, Missouri, where he taught school and also assisted in publishing a republican newspaper, the Shelby County Herald. He also continued the study of law, and was admitted to the Missouri bar in 1870.

Governor Humphrey arrived at Independence early in 1871. He thus identified himself with that community at its beginning. While building up a law practice he also interested himself in other local affairs. In March, 1871, he founded the South Kansas Tribune, which he published until June, 1872. He then gave all his time to the law, and was associated with Col. A. M. York until January 1, 1884.

In the preceding December he was associated with George T. Guernsey, P. V. Hockett and others in organizing the Commercial Bank of Independence. Mr. Humphrey became president of this institution, which in 1891 was reorganized as the Commercial National Bank and in age and resources it had since ranked as one of the largest banks of Southern Kansas. Mr. Humphrey continued its president until he went to Topeka as governor of the state.

A vigorous republican, Governor Humphrey had become identified with politics as soon as he become a resident of Independence. About a year after he located there he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Legislature, and was defeated because he opposed an issue of railroad bonds. In 1876 he was elected to represent Montgomery County in the Legislature by a large majority, and during that time served as a member of the judiciary committee. Before the expiration of the term he was appointed lieutenant governor to fill a vacancy, and at the regular election in 1878 was elected lieutenant governor by a plurality of over 40,000 votes. He presided with great dignity over the senate in the session of 1879. In 1884 he was elected a member of the Senate from Montgomery County and while in the Senate was president pro tem.

In 1888 he became a candidate for governor and was given the largest plurality by which a governor of the state was ever elected in Kansas. The vote stood as follows: Lyman U. Humphrey, 180,841; John Martin, 107,480; P. P. Elder, 35,837; J. D. Botkin, 6,439. Thus he went into office with a plurality of over 73,000. Every county in the state had given him a majority but two. In 1890 he was re-elected, this time by a plurality of about 8,000. A coincidence that should be noted in this sketch is that he was first nominated for governor on July 25, 1888, his forty-fourth birthday, and was elected on November 6, his mother’s birthday.

At the risk of encroaching somewhat on the domain of general history this biography should briefly note some of the conspicuous points in his administration as governor. He had behind him a Legislature of unusual ability and character, and his individual appointments were additional factors in the strength of his administration and in the record of constructive work performed during his first two years. His sense of fairness and his recognized devotion to the general public good contributed to the harmony of co-operation between the governor and all branches of the state government. Perhaps the most conspicuous features of his first term was the enforcement of the prohibition law. He himself gave emphatic approval to the state law, and opposed every movement to secure a resubmission of the issue to the people. One recent change in public administration of the cities introduced a specially perplexing problem in the enforcement of the state law. While he had been a member of the State Senate Governor Humphrey had supported an act to place the police affairs of all cities of the first class in the hands of police commissioners appointed by the governor. The responsibility of carrying out this law to its full intent confronted Governor Humphrey on assuming office. In appointing police commissioners for all the larger cities, including Kansas City, Atchison, Topeka, Wichita and Leavenworth, he incurred the hostility of the so-called liberal element in such cities, since his appointments fell upon men of character and ability and men who were committed to the active enforcement of the law, particularly with reference to the suppression of liquor selling, gambling and other offenses. The liquor element in all these cities blamed Governor Humphrey, and the latter well realized how much he was sacrificing in the way of political support in carrying out the law. In fact, the reduced plurality which was given him in 1890 was due in a large measure to the opposition which had developed during his first term to his policy of prohibition enforcement. In the campaign of 1890, in spite of Governor Humphrey’s vigorous stand on the liquor question, the prohibition party nominated a candidate of its own for governor. The democrats put out a ticket and a platform largely devoted to anti-prohibition. However, the chief factor in that election was the first state ticket in Kansas put out by the new people’s party, whose candidate for governor was John F. Willits, who in the succeeding election secured a vote of approximately 107,000 to Governor Humphrey’s vote of 115,000. In the face of all these conditions Governor Humphrey never flinched, but stood squarely for sound republican doctrine and for prohibition. He had faith in the people, and in his public speeches he appealed to them to stand for the honor, the integrity and good name of Kansas. During his second term, which began January 11, 1891, several notable results should be mentioned. Governor Humphrey urged the passage of a law making the first Monday of September a legal holiday, and this recognition of Labor day was first officially endorsed by the governor of Kansas, and the act of the Legislature creating such a holiday was soon afterwards followed by many other states. During his term there was also established for the first time in Kansas an inspection of grain.

In a review of his administration found in an article contributed to the annals of the Kansas State Historical Society, are some sentences that should be quoted as throwing a strong light on Governor Humphrey’s character as well as his official acts: “During the last three years of Governor Humphrey’s administration, as during the first two years, the affairs of state moved along peacefully and prosperously. He hated sham and pretense, and tried without pomp or parade to do his duty quietly and efficiently. During his four years as governor he was absent from the state only twice–once for a short trip in Colorado and once to attend a reunion of his old regiment in Ohio. He collected at one time $61,000 from the general government, the refunding of the direct tax paid in 1861, instead of doing it through the state agents, thus saving the state $6,000 commission, and the fact never even found its way into the newspapers. He was so sparing of the contingent fund that he did not travel a mile during his entire two terms at the state’s expense, and annually turned the bulk of the fund into the treasury. Though he had the utmost confidence in the boards in control, he personally and frequently visited the several state institutions to satisfy himself as to their conduct and management, and this he did quietly and without ostentation. As a result these institutions were conducted during his entire four years without brawls, abuses and scandals that have too often attracted the attention of the entire state. … The governor exercised the pardoning power freely, but discreetly. … In his appointments he freely recognized those republicans who had opposed his nomination in 1888, as well as those who had been for him, thus avoiding the existence of cliques, rings, machines, boss busters, feuds and factions within the party, which unfortunately in later times have disturbed the harmony and solidarity of the party and imperiled its success in subsequent campaigns. While ever ready to listen to the advice of his friends and grateful to those who had been exceptionally serviceable in his behalf, he resented the slightest attempts at dictation or bossism so emphatically that early in his first term a few disappointed politicians declared that the governor had already ‘gone back on his friends.’ Having assumed his office without any lofty pretensions or high sounding promises of reform, he proceeded to perform the duties of the place efficiently, honestly and modestly, under all of the many trying and perplexing circumstances of his four years’ tenure. … With the fidelity he had displayed on the field of battle during the war he served the State of Kansas as chief executive–and in these days of thrifty politicians, prostituting public place for private gain, it is refreshing to reflect that Governor Humphrey closed his fourteen years of public service in Kansas poorer in purse than when he began, richer only in a record unsmirched by even the breath of scandal or suspicion, and unchallenged as to honesty and integrity, even by his political antagonists.”

In 1892, before the close of his term in the governor’s office, he became republican candidate for Congress from the Third District, but owing to the fusion of the democrats and populists was defeated. On leaving the governor’s chair he became financial correspondent of the Union Central Life Insurance Company of Cincinnati, and had charge of the placing of their loans on farm lands in Kansas and Oklahoma. From that time until his death he lived quietly in Independence, most of the time looking after his business interests, associated with his son Lyman L. Humphrey. Governor Humphrey was for many years an active Mason, was a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion.

On December 25, 1872, Governor Humphrey married Miss Amanda Leonard, who is still living at her old home in Independence. Mrs. Humphrey was born at Beardstown, Cass County, Illinois. Her ancestors were of German stock, and were in America before the Revolution. Her grandfather Joseph Tuttle Leonard was a native of New Jersey, and died before Mrs. Humphrey was born. James C. Leonard, father of Mrs. Humphrey, was born March 15, 1818, in Whippany, New Jersey. During his youth he lived in Beardstown, Illinois, where he was married November 2, 1842, to Miss Maria S. Miller. She was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, October 25, 1819, and died in Beardstown, Illinois, June 17, 1855. In 1871 James C. Leonard came to Independence as a pioneer. He had the distinction of opening the first bank in Montgomery County, known as the Montgomery County Bank and located at Independence. Selling his interests in that institution, in 1874 he moved to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he was employed in the State Journal office and died there August 20, 1886. He was a republican, and in the early days was a friend of Abraham Lincoln. He was active in the Congregational Church, a worker in the Sunday-school, and did much both in church and Sunday-school as a singer, being leader of the choir. He was a member of the Masonic fraternity and the Independent Order of Odd Fellows. By his first marriage, to Miss Miller, he had the following children, all of whom were born in Beardstown, Illinois: Henry Spencer, born December 17, 1847, who followed a career as bookkeeper in banks and later was clerk in the Lansing prison, and who died at Denver, Colorado, a few years ago; Mrs. Humphrey, who was born September 22, 1850; and Edward, born November 11, 1852, and now an expert accountant living at Omaha, Nebraska. James C. Leonard married for his second wife at Beardstown August 20, 1857, Mrs. Sarah M. (Miller) McDonald. She was born at Greensburg, Kentucky, May 31, 1821, and died in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her children were: William M., who lives in Lincoln, Nebraska, and handles farm loans for the Union Central Insurance Company of Cincinnati; and Mary A., wife of Albert T. Colyer, who is government inspector for the custom house at Tacoma, Washington.

Mrs. Humphrey received her early education in the public schools of Beardstown, Illinois, and also attended Knox Seminary and a young ladies’ school at St. Louis. During the thirty-three years of her married life she proved an able helper and counselor to her husband, devoted to home, and had long been a leader in social work in Independence. She is a very active member of the Congregational Church and was a member of the Ladies’ Library Association for many years and one of the first members of the City Library Board.

Mrs. Humphrey had two living children. Concerning Lyman Leonard mention had already been made on other pages. A. Lincoln, the second son, is unmarried and assists his brother in the farm loan business at Independence. He owned a farm of 240 acres two and a half miles from Independence and is interested in the stock business.


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